CRAZY IVAN


12 hours

It has been half a day since the battle at the ML331 warp point and the crew is exhausted with emergency repairs and gathering the dead from the ship's ravaged compartments. I cannot tell you how shocked and angry I am at how quickly this mission has fallen apart. There are only three ships left of the task force assigned to relieve Devon's World, and the Restoration is hardly in shape to fight. In fact, according to my damage control chief, we have absolutely no weapons to speak of, goddamn it. The ship has been thoroughly gutted but all six engine rooms have been restored to barely functional order. Only Ananda's Morong is in fighting trim, and the troopship Ivan Berenstein was built with no weapons at all. The fighters escorting us into the system have run out of life support and Captain Armstrong took them on board to man the landing craft on the Ivan. I am at a loss of what to do. Fleet Captain Hernando Verde. End.



17 hours

The damage report and personnel fatalities for the Restoration have come in, and it’s worse than I thought. We have suffered over 70% fatalities among the crew, with a confirmed 2,341 dead. My heart has sank within me at the thought of all those good men and women dead and dying. I have decided, however, to head into the outer system as Holot forces are still stalking us, and we are unable to fight our way back through the warp point without assistance. The heavy cruiser Morong is following several light hours behind us, maintaining contact with our recon drones. The small force of Holot warships that initially blockaded out exit from the Devon System is still there according to the drones. When we reach the oort cloud of the outer system, I will schedule a command meeting with the other ship captains. Worst of all, our initial scans have shown that the Holots' have depopulated the planet with their bioweapons. Everyone is dead; those goddamn bears are gonna pay! Verde out.



96 hours

We are currently hiding in the outer system, waiting desperately for some sign that the Navy will return and crush the Holot forces that are blockading our exit from this trap. I am despairing at the impotence that the Restoration is currently in, with no active weapons and the ECM going on and offline intermittently. My superdreadnought has no fangs and can barely defend herself. The best we could possibly do is merely escort the Morong and Ivan, drawing fire as we are more of a juicy target. We are also now seriously undermanned due to our heavy personnel losses. The far superior technology of the Holot forces (a mere six destroyers at the warp point) completely outgun us according to my tactical officer. This impotence is irritating beyond belief! The Captains' meeting is in twelve hours. Verde out.



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Within the depths of the assault troopship Ivan Berenstein, Major Zinter Bellows, commander of the 4th Company(Elite) meandered in the darkness. This mission is a cluster fuck, he thought gloomily, trying to stay away from his troops who would easily pick up his mood. They had heard the after action report of the battle at the warp point, and the Big Ivan had even taken some moderate damage during that brutal fight. What his men didn't know was that they were currently trapped within the system and that the mission was in serious jeapardy. As he walked into the main drop bay, Bellows stood for a moment, taking in the bright work lights of the work space.

The main operating area of the 77th Regiment, the drop bay was covered with grav tanks and other fighting vehicles. Half a dozen Basher "Bash Their Skulls" grav tanks were on hydraulic lifts, each under major repair, with his work crews swarming around them. He was proud of these men(and the few women) who had enlisted in the Army, proud to serve with them and command them, especially in difficult or impossible missions. In fact, the 77th had several successful raids under its belt, as well as that peacekeeping mission to Maximus Prime. That famous and successful mission was what got them the current Op, one that most likely would turn out very badly, he believed. Gearing himself, he headed over to a few grunts that were working on a grav tank. The heavy bay lighting made his skin, normally a palish color, appear light blue. All natives of the high-grav world Jinx had blueish skin, and that very skin had held him back in command for years because of the humanistic prejudice that was predominate all across the Pact.

Both the 77th and the 41st Regiments shared the bay, but it was massive enough for both formations, although the crew quarters were mighty goddamn cramped. A few incidents between his troops and some ship-board marines had come to his attention, but such stress was normal under the circumstances. Suddenly and without warning, Bellows lept back from the grav tank lift fan he was idly looking at as a large, shelled creature skittered out from underneath the hydraulic lift.

"Goddamn it Zorn, warn me when you are moving about like that!" Bellows yelled, drawing quick attention from his work crew.

"Commander on deck!" a female voice shouted and suddenly tools were clanging to the ground as the troops all around the tank snapped to attention.

"At ease," Bellows spoke, smoothing out the front of his uniform, which had become ruffled when he had jumped back from the crab-like engineer. All six grunts, one woman and five men, one obviously from a high-grav planet, relaxed and continued their duties, while the woman hastily approached the Major. The Tolat trooper, standing a mere two feet in height and four feet across, still hadn't moved from his position, frozen half a dozen paces away from his commanding officer.

Eyeing the greyish shelled grunt, Bellows saluted it sharply and said, "Dismissed, soldier."

Watching the Tolat leave as she approached her commanding officer, Yelen got a good look at him without attracting attention. The Major was well over six feet tall and had the distincts features of a Jinxian, down to the blue transluscent skin. He was an excellent officer, in her opinion, with the leadership skills to order men and women under his command with ease. However, new stress lines had appeared on his face in the past three months as pressures from above began to grind the man down. The Pact Civil War was still heating up, with wide-scale fighting erupting everywhere across Pact space, and they had been in combat six times in those previous months.

Bellows looked over his junior officer, Petty Officer Yelen Tyrel, briefly. He had forgotten what system she was from, but she was an able administrator and a good field mechanic too boot.

"How's work on the Basher coming along, Yelen?" He asked her casually as she saluted.

"Very well, Sir! She'll be up and running before the op," she replied while eying him. Casually, he looked over the massive fourty ton grav tank, admiring the plasma bore mounted on top of the tank. A secondary particle beam gun was mounted to the right of the main gun, with a vertical cells of anti-missile missiles in the rear, as well as hard screen emitters.

Bellows again looked at his PO and then cleared his throat,"Carry on then, Chief". And he turned on his heel and walked away.

That was odd, Yelen thought as she watched her CO walk away. He must have just wanted to touch base before the op. To be near the men, she thought idly before she too turned and walked back to her tank.


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257 hours

A recon drone sweeping ahead of the task group has spotted something incredible...and ominous. A Berserker, those massive and ancient enemies of all life, is hidden within the icy fields of the oort cloud where we are hiding. Easily ten times larger than my beloved Restoration, Ananda thinks this deadly automated vessel is the answer to our prayers. She contends that if we awaken this lethal giant(just by our mere presence most likely) and draw it back to the planet, we will be able to evacuate the Governor and data we have come to get while the Holots' are engaged by the Berserker. I am highly skeptical of this plan, but I am willing to listen to her, for the success of the mission. We are transferring all the wounded to the Berenstein. Verde out.


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"Ananda, are you out of your goddamn mind!?" The dark hispanic features of one Hernando Verde, Fleet Captain of the Pact Navy, blushed even darker as blood flowed to his angry face.

The dark skinned woman he was yelling at, obviously of Asian Indian descent, filled the Fleet Captains' screen on his desk. Verde had chosen his quarters to continue this conversation because he knew that Captain Ananda Patel loved to argue...about everything.

" 'Nando, you know I am perfectly sane," the woman said with a slight impish smile.

"However, we need to seriously consider utilizing this stroke of luck! Think about it! We are trapped here in Devon, we cannot fight our way out, the Holot fleet is hunting us down even as we speak, and the Almighty sends us an avenging angel of death!"

Blinking for a moment at the screen, Hernando Verde was an aggressive man, both in and out of bed, but he wasn't suicidal. Scrunching his nose at the screen for a moment, he exhaled heartily and leaned back in his comfortable chair, trying to gather his wits. It has been a brutal ten days in flight to the outer reaches of the Devon's World system, and never-ending hours hiding in the icy fields of gas and water that made up the oort cloud of this system.

But what his junior Captain had just suggested was nearly suicidal. In their maneuvers through the chunks of ice, they had found an enemy more deadly than what lay behind them. It was a Berserker, the most deadliest of foes that the Pact of Humanity had ever faced. In fact, before the Battle of Trannock Nor, where the Pact Navy finally crushed a large force of Berserkers who had massed in Oldhams Cluster, the Berserkers had terrorized human space for thousands of years. Only sporadically afterwards, and mainly in the fringes of Pact space, were their any hint of Berserker activity. Their super advanced weaponry and incredible size, which dwarfed even the largest Pact Navy warship, made them something to be avoided at all cost....except in the most dire of situations.

And now what the woman on his screen had just proposed scared Hernando, who didn't scare easily, more so than the Holot Fleet that was currently hunting his task group. As he thought for a moment, he realized that he would have more of an advantage than the Pact Captains and Admirals' that had last fought the Berserkers nearly a thousand years ago. Improvements in command, control, communications, and intelligence capabilities, together with the greater availability and effectiveness of Pact missile systems, had made the Pact military far more deadly. These increases in abilities would more than likely allow the Pact Navy to hold its own in a battle with a single Berserker if it was able to close the range.

The best thing he could think of is to follow Anandas' advice and lure the Berserker to the planet and watch it annihilate the Holot forces there. It would only take him two hours or less to evacuate the Governor from her Deep Underground Command Post and retrieve the data on the new meson gun that they were testing here; more than enough time to avoid the Berserker once it was done with the Holot fleet. If the Governor hadn't been the only and much beloved sister of the Senator of Bagram Cluster, they wouldn't even be here. But he had his duty to do, and he would follow orders, even in the middle of this goddamn civil war. Idly pulling at the cuff of his gray and gold uniform, he thought for a moment and then looked up.

With sincere doubt in his voice, Hernando smiled at his junior officer slightly and said, "Well, we'll try Ananda. It's our best hope to complete this mission and get the hell outta this system."


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A slow trickle of power became as flood as the ancient mind awoke for the first time in millennia. Awakened from its slumber, the tireless mind took a lengthy .00560 seconds to scan its systems and found only a 2% decrease in combat capability despite being in hibernation so long. External sensors quickly localized the data that had interrupted the minds' long sleep: an small group of vessels had closed to within twelve million miles and was actively scanning the outer hull. Although nearly ten feet of bitterly cold frozen ice now coated the surface, weapons systems and drives activated without incident as the ship began to move towards the much smaller ships. Obviously built by Life, its was in the programming of millennia ago to destroy such Life, wherever it could be found. The superior weapons and size of this warship would quickly reduce the ships of Life to rubble. As the ship maneuvered out of the ice fields, the ships of Life began to turn and flee towards the inner system. They would be able to stay out or range of the weapons but no matter, they would succumb eventually, especially if they chose to defend the life bearing planet that lay in this system.


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345 hours

First off, because of the heavy damage to the Resolution we are barely able to stay ahead of the Berserker and the Holot forces have finally spotted our approach to Devon's World. My heart sank as my neural display showed me what lay in wait for us. A YY-Class superdreadnought, two WW-Class battlecruisers, and six PP-Class destroyers. That’s an extremely lethal force! If we are able to disable or get lucky enough to destroy the Holot superdreadnought, the Berserker should be able to easily overwhelm the remaining light forces with its long-range bombardment missiles and quark weaponry. But that’s a big if! I only have three vessels, only one of which is able to fight, the heavy cruiser Morong. This mission had better be worth it, dammit! Verde out.


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Captain Ananda Patel, child of New Bombay and commanding officer of the cruiser Morong for nearly two years, was locked into her shock frame, watching the closing battle in fear. She knew that the Holots had almost never been defeated from all the classified military files she had recently scanned. The crew is a good one, but we are all going to die, she thought morosely. Looking back over the last two years, she was proud at the performance and professionalism of her crew, and although there had been a few incidents of fighting aboard her ship once the outbreak of the civil war had been announced, but operations on board continued to function fairly smoothly.

"Holot SD closing the range Captain," Lt. Harding, the short stocky officer from Jasper announced in her direction. Ananda nodded almost absently mindedly, trying desperately a way to accomplish this final mission while trying to not make it her final mission, but she couldn't think of any.

Glancing around at her command crew, she could tell that they were highly anxious. The normal babble of combat operations was unusually high, and tempers were flaring at the coming hopeless battle. Steeling herself inwardly, Patel shook off the foreboding and concentrated on her duty, refusing to let fate or depression distract her any further.

Looking at the command tactical display in front of her, she pondered it for a moment. The odds are not good, she thought to herself. The Holot superdreadnought was a real monster, easily capable of destroying all three remaining ships of the 345th BatRon by itself with its advanced weaponry. The range had fallen to 30 million kilometers and alarms suddenly screamed as the Morong's sensors registered a change in the superdreadnoughts' actions. The warship, still screened by its lighter units, was keeping itself between the Pact task force and the planet, Ananda noted warily.

Looking down at her command datascreen, sensors showed her the bad news. The superdreadnought was launching fighters from it capital gun-missile launchers, half a dozen at a time. Naval intelligence had seen this tech before, and knew some specs on the weapons system. These versatile missile launchers could fire capital missiles, close-range missiles, as well as the highly maneuverable drone fighters. The Office of Naval Intelligence speculated that a special fighter or cargo hold was attached to the feed system of the missile launcher and it could hold four fighters per hold, much higher than the traditional single fighter.

The odds just went in the shit-tank, Ananda thought briefly, and then she rapped out loud,

"Stand by point defense….. target fighters at will." Her people began to move about the command deck as the amber alert light continued to flash. She briefly put a hand on her helmet, which was fastened to the right of her chair. The newly installed hyperwave datalink appeared to be working too, for whatever good it will do.

As the Morong went into combat alert, Captain Patel checked the weapons status panel of her ship briefly. The ship carried two medium vertical launch missile systems, and all doors blinked in the green as the cell doors opened, preparing to fire. The VLS system was a much faster-firing weapon, even though it could only throw heavy missile volleys for a few minutes before the missiles cells were exhausted and needed replenishing. Four shorter-ranged plasma guns also showed ready to fire and Ananda exhaled heavily into her command mike, an action that raised a few heads around the command pod to look at her.

God this is going to be ugly.


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441 hours

This is the personal log of Captain Mickey Armstrong. Both the Restoration and Morong have been destroyed in the battle over Devon's World three hours ago. The Restoration, although combat ineffective, took heavy fire by the Holot fighters and was destroyed just short of beam range of the enemy fleet. After exhausting her SBMs, Captain Patel chose to ram the Holot superdreadnought, clearing the way for us. My troops are preparing to land on the surface and retrieve the Governor and databanks from the planet. The Berserker is still on the far side of the planet, and according to my lone surviving recon bird, engaging the fleeing Holot forces in long range missile duels. The Berserker's LBM missiles are chewing those freaky hair bears apart; damn those missiles are incredible! The Holot forces at the warp point are closing on the Berserker as well, but they have no missile weapons from what I can tell. They're toast! According to my data, we will have more than enough time to grab Governor Hall and run for the warp point. I officially thank Fleet Captain Verde and Captain Patel for their tremendous sacrifice to the success of this mission. Captain Mickey Armstrong. End


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Major Zinter Bellows, dressed head to toe in standard Army battledress, looked across the drop bay at the troops he would soon be leading into battle.

Well not really a battle, just a rescue op, but with some minor Holot forces there might be a firefight or two, Bellows thought to himself. His heart was racing and he again scrutinized the drop bay, looking out at all the egg-shaped drop capsules that were being lowered into firing position. The grav tanks, infantry fighting craft, and light air vehicles had already been loaded into assault ships and cutters, all of which were preparing to follow the drop capsules down. Trying to hide his apprehension, Major Bellows keyed his mic.

"Captain Armstrong, the Seventy-Seventh is ready and prepared to depart."

Far away, in the command center of the massive troopship, Captain Mickey Armstrong commed back, "Understood Major. The 41st Regiment is already down and securing the landing zone. Kick some hairy bear butt men! Good luck Seventy-Seventh. Out."


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2,991 hours

Our mission is complete and Governor Angela Hall appears to be supremely grateful for the rescue, as do her two small children. We evacuated a total of 838 people total from the underground command center, including the Planetary Joint Chiefs and Admiral Remington, the System Naval Commander. My thoughts, however, are with those we have left behind, those who have died for the high ideals of the Pact. I wish that those stupid people fighting this god-awful civil war would be more like Captain Verde and Captain Patel.

On a happier note, we have finally made it to Buck Rock and I am still amazed at the size of the Fleet Base here. Over a billion people now live in this 50 mile diameter rogue moon, and I am told that only one percent of it has been hollowed out! The recent fleet download shows that my quarters have already been assigned here, so it looks like I will be in Bagram Cluster for awhile honey. I miss you. Kiss the kids for me and keep the chicken in the oven warm! Mack.


 

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